In an announcement at the fiftieth annual World Economic Forum currently being held in Davos, Switzerland, Minister Navdeep Bains and Ajay Banga, CEO of Mastercard, revealed today that Mastercard will open its latest global technology centre in Vancouver.
“Somebody has to take the initiative to really drive a meaningful approach to how we create trust.”
Mastercard is investing $510 million to build out the centre, intended to be an innovation hub for digital and cybersecurity, artificial intelligence (AI), and the Internet of Things (IoT). Called the Intelligence and Cyber Centre, the space is Mastercard’s sixth global technology centre and its first in Canada.
The more than half a billion dollar project is supported by the federal government through the Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF), which will supply $49 million, bringing the overall project total to $559 million.
Johan Gerber, executive vice president of security and cyber innovation for Mastercard explained that the majority of the funding will be put towards investing in people and infrastructure to build out technology projects that meet Mastercard’s overall objective for the centre. The VP told BetaKit that Mastercard’s goal is to use the centre as a base to create global standards for connected commerce, IoT, and cybersecurity.
“How do we make sure that we have the right framework, especially in an environment where things are growing so fast [and] so quick,” Gerber said. “[Mastercard thinks] that somebody has to take the initiative to really drive a meaningful approach to how we create trust in this ecosystem.”
As a multinational financial services corporation that operates in 210 countries, it is easy to understand why Mastercard might want to create world-wide cybersecurity standards that protect payments and financial services. Sasha Krstic, president of Mastercard in Canada, stated that the Vancouver centre will help “meet the growing demand” for solutions to the cost of cyber-attacks, secure payments, and vulnerabilities in IoT.
“That’s really where this whole initiative started,” Gerber added to BetaKit. “Can we put in place a visible standard so that … at a minimum, we [can] provide this level of security that protects the consumer and protects the other stakeholders.”
Mastercard is opening the centre with three key goals in mind: to reduce the cost of cyber-attacks, enable current “connected devices” to be secure payment devices in the future, and address vulnerabilities associated with IoT. By hiring hundreds of employees, including industry experts, Mastercard plans to build technology in the hopes of becoming the international leader on ensuring the security of financial services and connected devices.
“Some of the primary goals we want to achieve here [are] obviously to create a set of standards,” Gerber told BetaKit. “The rollout of this is looking at global standards, global initiatives that will impact commerce all across the world.”
To achieve its goal of creating global standards for privacy and security of connected devices, Mastercard plans to collaborate with universities, startups, and governments.
Through these collaborations, the Mastercard centre will create software application development tools that can be used by other companies to “more efficiently” build and integrate cybersecurity technologies.
Building on NuData
The decision to open Mastercard’s latest global hub in Vancouver, far from Mastercard Canada’s Toronto headquarters, came about through its 2017 acquisition of NuData Security, a biometrics and analytics company based in Vancouver, British Columbia.
“NuData is going to play a key role in driving the future of this centre.”
“NuData is going to play a key role in driving the future of this centre,” Gerber stated. “It’s part of their whole heritage of where they came from…they will be basically the kernel of these core teams and [Mastercard] will build around it.”
Founded in 2007, NuData’s technology identifies people based on their online interactions, and the company helped pioneer the field of behavioural biometrics. Christopher Bailey, CEO of NuData, who became executive vice president of EMV and digital devices at Mastercard, told BetaKit that the centre will not be limited to the Vancouver startup community, but offer opportunities for companies across Canada to get involved.
Gerber and Bailey also noted that it was through discussion with the Canadian government and the Government of Canada’s alignment with Mastercard on consumer privacy that led it to further develop the innovation hub.
“Consumer privacy, those are our initiatives that really are extremely difficult to push as a private corporation on your own, but in alignment and coordination with public [and] private partnerships, the government’s able to actually enact those things,” said Bailey. “Those are the types of things I think are hugely beneficial when we align with the government on that, and [it] can help move that forward.”
Gerber hinted at opportunities in the future to not only work with the Canadian government, but also international governments as well; with the hopes of helping Mastercard achieve its dream of easy and industry-wide standards for cybersecurity.
“As Canadians use connected devices more and more, including for sensitive financial services like their banking, they want to know their data and privacy are protected,” said Bains. “Our government is investing in a new cybersecurity centre in Canada to develop the technology solutions Canadians and people all over the world need to protect their personal and financial information when they use their devices.”
Bains added that Mastercard’s new centre will make Canada a world leader in cybersecurity, helping tackle the cost of cybercrime in Canada, which is estimated to be $3 billion a year.
Notably, Mastercard’s project came about through the close involvement of Invest in Canada, the one and a half year old agency that works on the behalf of the Government of Canada to bring large foreign direct investment into the country.
The Invest in Canada team, led by CEO Ian McKay, formerly the CEO of the Vancouver Economic Commission and national director of the Liberal Party of Canada from 2010 to 2013, has worked closely with Mastercard for over a year to ensure the centre’s opening in Canada.
Noémie Julien, chief of staff at Invest in Canada, a former member of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s PMO office, told BetaKit that the deal with Mastercard marked one of the largest files Invest Canada has worked on to date.
The Intelligence and Cyber Centre is located in The Exchange office tower in the restored Old Stock Exchange building, in downtown Vancouver. It is currently home to NuData and members of Mastercard’s research and development, operations and technology, and cyber and intelligence divisions. Four floors in The Exchange will be the base for Mastercard’s expansion of the new centre. Along with 100 existing jobs at NuData, Mastercard plans to hire 270 new employees and create 100 student co-op positions.
Mastercard has already begun to hire and work with local Vancouver organizations to get its innovation hub moving forward. The financial services giant called its investment and the Intelligence and Cyber Centre a reinforcement of its commitment to Canada. Prior to the Vancouver office, Mastercard opened its last global technology centre in Sydney, Australia in 2018. The company also has locations in New York, St. Louis, India, and Dublin.
“Expanding our presence in Canada allows us to tap into the country’s talented workforce and thriving technology ecosystem, to help bring innovations to market even faster,” said Krstic.
Mastercard’s other investments in Canadian cybersecurity include its acquisition last year of Toronto-based FinTech startup Ethoca. Mastercard said of the Ethoca and NuData acquisitions that it is looking to bring together best-in-class solutions in order to increase security in the digital space.
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